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Leadership Trait Theory

Sir Francis Galton is credited with being one of the earliest leadership theorists, mentioning the trait approach to leadership for the first time in his book Hereditary Genius, published in 1869. Galton (1869) believed that leadership qualities were genetic characteristics of a family. “Qualities such as courage and wisdom were passed on- from family member to family member, from generation to generation” (R. House, M. Javidan, P. Hanges, and P. Dorfman, 2002).

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The trait theory of leadership makes the assumption that distinctive physical and psychological characteristics account for leadership effectiveness (McGraw, 2007). The most basic leadership traits are basic intelligence, clear and strong values and high level of personal energy (Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, James Noel, 2001). However, Edwin Gheselli defined the leadership traits as six traits which were most widely reported by others according to McGraw (2007), and the six traits are Need for achievement, Intelligence, Decisiveness, Self- confidence, initiative and supervisory ability (Edwin Gheselli).

On the contrary, Zaccaro (2007) noted that trait theories still just focus on a small set of individual attributes such as the Big Five personality traits, to the neglect of cognitive abilities, motives, values, social skills, expertise, and problem-solving skills. Besides, he also noted that this trait theory aim to consider patterns or integrations of multiple attributes. Leadership Behavior Theory With the growing concentrate on the behaviorism in psychology during 1930s, more and more research occurred in leadership behavior (George Manning, 2007).

“Behavior leadership theories assume that there are distinctive actions that effective leaders take” (Kent Curtis, 2007). There is an assessment named Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ) which is known by others being developed by Ralph Stogdill and others at Ohio State University (William J, 2007). This questionnaire separated the leader’s behavior in to two dimensions which are Initiating structure and Showing Consideration. The former means the leader mostly will consider the relationship between themselves and their staff.

The later means the leader would like to develop trust, respect, support, and friendship with subordinates. (George Manning, 2007) This paper will analyze the activities of Michael Dell by leadership trait theory because this theory is the basic theory of leadership even it is just focus on personality according to Zaccaro (2007). George Manning (2007) argued that there are 10 qualities that mark a leader and help influence the leadership process which are vision, ability, enthusiasm, stability, concern for others, self-confidence, persistence, vitality, charisma, and integrity.

He explained that a good vision is the basic requirement for a leader due to that a good vision can enable the leader recognize what happened and what should do. First of all Michael Dell was born on February 25th, 1965 in Houston Texas. The way his story sounds reads like a business fairytale. He attended the University of Texas, he had nothing but an idea on his mind no way to fulfill it no money to fund it. He wanted to become a Doctor or to own his own little business his preference was an electronic store but like any other college student he had no money.

One day he was sitting in his bedroom in his parent’s house, with an apple computer he got to thinking about the purchase of computers and that there was always a middleman and the extra cost of accessories. He started to take apart the Apple Computer to get acquainted to the heart of the computers. Then it dawned on him that he can sell computers directly to the customer without the unnecessary middleman so he can keep the production cost low. Accordingly, Dell sold PCs to customers directly and it also started to take phone orders.

Michael Dell said his company was the first PC manufacturer who sold product to customers directly. Going direct has become the core competency of Dell Computer Corporation. Besides, Dell begun to change the way of store which is they created big-box computer stores. It means Dell will reduce lots of cost than other competitors. This simple ways will change Dell’s future. (Ram, 1997) Michael Dell had created a strategy which is the objective of Dell: to gain more profit. They needed to find a way to achieve this objective.

He said when Dell move into the server field, “in the mid-1990s, our competitors’ services, while good product, were onerously and unjustifiably priced to subsidize other less profitable parts of their business. What emerged was an incredible opportunity to disable our competitor’s ability to gouge the market, while at the same time to grow our business in servers. This strategy was first evident when Dell took a look at all the PC retailers out there and decided to avoid them. My goal has always been to make sure that everyone at Dell feel they are a part of something great- perhaps something even greater than themselves.

” Michael Dell is a CEO who knows how to delegate, and that means he relies on getting the best possible people in his organization. (Schlesinger, 2002) Michael Dell says: “I am often asked how we manage to maintain the attitude of a challenger, even as we continue to grow at record speeds. Culture is, by far, one of the most enigmatic facets of management that I have encountered. It is also one of the most important. Once a reporter asked me which of our competitors represented the biggest threat to Dell. I said the greatest threat to Dell wouldn’t come from a competitor. It would come from our people.

” (Aldrich, 1990) To achieve a good business growth, Dell has been segmented in different parts. Michael Dell is quoted at 1000ventures. com as saying, “Pay attention to what your best people are achieving, and build an infrastructure that rewards mastery. The best way to keep the most talent people is to allow their jobs to change with them. ” (Glancey, 1998) Dell’s innovation mostly relies on its partners. It helped Dell reduce cost and made him more nimbly. In terms of Dell’ own tech innovation, Michael Dell says the most important thing is to keep the research and development (R&D) cost down.

He also said “Unlike many of our competitors, we actually had an option: to buy components from the specialists, leveraging the investments they had already made and allowing us to focus on what we did best- designing and delivering solutions and systems directly to customers. ” (Johannison, 2000) Dell grew rapidly due to its vision of the market. Michael Dell says: “Planning is one of those areas where experience counts as much as intellect. When you’re trying to grow a new business, it’s hard to anticipate the ups and downs of business cycles that you’ve actually never experienced before.

” (Jones, 2003) “Dell has grown fast enough to make it clear that you cannot expect to do everything yourself. In the end, you have to delegate responsibility”, Michael Dell says: “For any company to succeed, it’s critical for top management to share power successfully. You have to be focused on achieving goals for the organization, not on accumulating power for yourself. ” What he said is true that he had made Kevin Rollins to be CEO after his words. (Gibb, 1999) However, global finance crisis brought problems to Dell. When Dell CEO Michael S. Dell and President Kevin B.

Rollins met privately in the fall of 2001, they felt confident that the company was recovering from the global crash in PC sales. Their own personal performances, however, was another matter. Internal interviews revealed that subordinates thought Dell was impersonal and emotionally detached, while Rollins was seen as autocratic and antagonistic. Few felt strong loyalty to the company’s leaders. Worse, the discontent was spreading: A survey taken over the summer, following the company’s first-ever mass layoffs, found that half of Dell Inc. ‘s employees would leave if they got the chance. (Bloomberg Business week, 2003)


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